There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States. Currently, less than 2% of teachers nationwide are Black males.
There have been some credulous efforts to right this wrong (a lack of Black Male teachers), and I applaud the folks that are on the front lines with the intent of diversifying the teaching profession. TFA has done a remarkable job addressing the issue, so has the Fellowship, and NYC to name a few.
While I applaud the efforts that are being made to populate teaching with more Black Males, I want to use this space to discuss why I almost left education as a Black male.
1) I am not your security guard. My job is to fill the minds of my students with knowledge. It’s not to play referee or anything of the sort.
Of course, if kids are in danger or peril, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they are safe (even though my union contract explicitly states I should not intervene), I will. But that isn’t my primary goal in life, nor is it why I sought education as a career.
2) Consequently, I am not the translator of Black popular culture for you. If you would like to understand best the culture of the students that you educate, get to know them as people. Try to do it without judgment, and with high levels of authenticity. I mean, don’t just get to know them because you have to, get to know them because you want to make a difference in their lives.
3) Contrary to your beliefs, I will not serve as the liaison between you and black parents. Again, relationship building is critical. Call these parents and say something kind and non-judgmental about their students. You can find something nice to say about any kid if you get to know that kid. Treat parents as allies and not as adversaries.
4) Lastly, I am not your bodyguard when you do culturally offensive things that are offensive to the stakeholders that you provide service. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and the day that you overstep your boundaries, be prepared for what comes with that.
Taking the necessary time to tell you what I am not is only half of the process. I must take some time to tell you who I am, so we’re clear, and we can move forward in harmony.
- I am a professional with the same credentials as you. The same way you treat any other colleague is the same way that I expect you to treat me. If you don’t expect him/her to yield a superman cape because they can identify with students and families, please afford me the same courtesy.
- I am a team player, but please don’t take advantage of that. Teaching isn’t a bare minimum job, and since I am super invested and rooting for my kids, do not think that you can bring anything less to the table for “our kids.” And if you don’t buy into the discourse of “our kids,” you should be somewhere that resonates better for you.
- I am a thought-partner. I am always looking for ways to help my colleagues better engage in this work. If you have ideas, I want to hear your thoughts, and I will give you safe space advice. Accepting me as your thought-partner will ignite passion, that will benefit our students.
- Treat me as your equal. It’s alarming that in 2019 we’re still talking about equality, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this. If the kids are our goal, I can do this work forever.
This manifesto was inspired partially by the story of an 86 year old principal/scholar who recently signed a 4-year contract renewal to lead into his 90’s. There is much to do about the lack of Black male teachers in school systems throughout the United States.
This post was written by Ray Ankrum and originally ran on his blog.